F1Punter

Formula 1: Against The Odds

F1 Drivers’ World Championship

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After a chaotic week – even by F1 standards – it feels like a good time to take stock of the bigger picture.

All but two-thirds of the way through the season, a maximum of just sixty points available to any driver and finally the Drivers’ World Championship is starting to take shape.  The best odds that I can find on the net create the following market:

2.10 Lewis Hamilton (Ladbrokes)
3.15 Fernando Alonso (Betfair)
7.00 Kimi Raikkonen (Interwetten)
20.0 Felipe Massa (Betfair)

Book = 98.64%

With Raikkonen and Massa appearing to rotate their inconsistency, it is starting to look like a duel (probably quite apt) between the two McLaren drivers.  The best price available for either one taking home the Formula One Drivers Trophy is around 1/4 (dutching).

Indeed the proximity of the two Ferrari drivers to each other (Raikkonen 60pts and Massa 59pts) poses their team a problem.  One feels that Ferrari’s best chance of reigning in the boys from Woking would be to focus their efforts behind one driver and use the other tactically.  Can this happen?  Ferrari’s history would indicate yes and payroll alone would suggest that it would be Kimi, but will politics and Michael Schumacher’s influence within the team prevent it?  I feel so.  Certainly for now.

So who is best equipped for the run-in to Brazil?

Lewis Hamilton (80pts)

His almost unblemished run of podiums this season has been nothing short of amazing, regardless of his rookie status. There can be no other driver who has driven so consistently well this season and a maintenance of his current points-gathering (7.2 points-per-race average) would guarantee that he finished the season ahead of the Ferraris. 

I suspect though that he is going to have to chalk up at least a couple of race wins to see off his teammate and as the pressure is turned up inside the McLaren garage it will be interesting to see how the young man reacts. He admitted this weekend that he made a mistake in ignoring team orders – ironically one that probably benefited him in terms of points – but making mistakes isn’t a habit that he will want to get used to. 

Although comparisons with GP2 are perhaps unfair, I couldn’t help but notice that Hamilton won five of the first 11 races last season and none of the last ten.

Fernando Alonso (73pts)

Fernando would admit to having a difficult start to the season, blaming anything from his new Bridgestone tyres to the atmosphere at his new team.  However he will be looking to the recent turnaround in his form to propel him towards a third consecutive World Championship. Over the last five races Alonso has outscored his teammate and in the last three by an average of 2.3 points-per-race. A small sample admittedly, but maintenance of this over the remaining six races would see him comfortably crowned champion.

In his successful bid to retain his championship last season, many believe he was stuttering in what was no longer the most competitive car.  What was crucial was that he did enough.

Kimi Raikkonen (60pts)

Kimi must be hoping for three things between now and the end of the season: 1) Ferrari recognise him as the team No.1 and focus all of their efforts on maximising his performance. 2) That his engineers can deliver him a car that is vastly superior to the McLaren at the coming tracks that are expected to suit the Italian team. 3) That his notorious bad luck stays away long enough to not rob him of the valuable chequered-flags that he desperately needs. Personally I think it is a bit too much to ask.

Felipe Massa (59pts)

At times this season Massa has been a revelation, driving in a way that many both inside and outside of the paddock doubted was possible earlier in his career. Unfortunately performances like the one that we have just witnessed at the Hungaroring do not appear to be that of a champion. I do not think that the Brazilian has the consistency to win this title and it is reflected in his odds.

Of course any bet at this stage would have the spectre of the FIA International Court of Appeal hearing hanging over it.  Even a small points deduction for the McLaren drivers would blow the market wide open, whilst a full exclusion would be catastrophic for anyone with a silver-leaning bet.

I suppose it is also worth considering that the clearly strained relations within the McLaren team could lead to one of the drivers vacating their seat before Interlagos.   This is extremely unlikely in my opinion and not something I would be looking to factor in to a price.  

After this we are looking at the usual factors of reliability and driver error and I cannot see any glaring errors in the prices.   Alonso has scored points in every race this season, Hamilton in ten out of eleven races and both Ferrari drivers in nine out of eleven.

Something I do always watch out for in a market is the weight of money from the man-on-the-street.  With anti-Alonso stories raging through the British press, I find it hard to believe that there is a queue forming at any UK licensed betting office to back the man from Oviedo.  We have already seen a similar reaction earlier in the season when the big British firms cut Hamilton well below the best available price to just 2/5 in a bid to limit their liabilities.  It is no coincidence that Fernando Alonso is a shorter price (relatively) with the European books such as Interwetten and BWin.

Conclusion

Hamilton is clearly in Pole Position (no stewards required) with his seven-point lead in the championship.  What comes next for him is a huge character test as being crowned the youngest ever Formula One World Champion becomes an ever more real possibility. This is set against what appear to be climaxing tensions within the team and they alone will present the 22 year old with a new set of challenges.  However his odds certainly reflect his position of Championship leader, with the vast majority of bookmakers and exchange-layers making him an odds-on shot to be victorious.

If the Ferrari drivers were shooting at one target and not two, then I might give them a chance of getting involved in the championship race. However, whilst there is always the possibility of the two McLaren drivers taking points off each other (if not paintwork) it is hard to foresee under the current points structure them both surrendering their significant leads.  Am I writing Ferrari off too early?

Alonso is the man that has been there and done it. He held his nerve with the seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher breathing down his neck.  Contrary to what appears to be a widely held belief, I think the Spaniard can take some positives out of this past weekend. In the post-qualifying press conference he put his reputation on the line and asked the team to back him. They did (although the stewards didn’t buy it). Equally he has witnessed perhaps the first major break in the harmony between Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton, a factor that has clearly rattled him all season.  At the prices he is the one that interests me most.

Let me know what you think; either your opinion of the most likely winner, or the driver who you feel represents the best value at the prices.

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Written by f1punter

August 6, 2007 at 11:50 pm

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